Tricky Weekend for Schmied on Debut at Sonoma

April 12th 2023 – Sonoma, CA.

Short Recap: Kenny Schmied and the AOA Racing #14 BMW M2 CS Racing traveled to Sonoma California over the weekend for the first two rounds of the 2023 Touring Car America season. With limited dry running before qualifying due to inclement weather and electrical issues with the car that were outside of the teams control, Schmied was on his back foot for the session. Qualifying in 6th and spending most of Race 1 in 5th after passing the #24 BMW of Joseph Catania at the start, Schmied would ultimately lose P5 to Catania on the second to last lap. It was a P6 overall and in class for Race 1. Schmied started Race 2 from 5th, and would pass two cars on the first lap to run the first half of the race in podium contention.

With under 20 minutes to go and Schmied showing solid pace, a slight wiggle out of T2 would open the door for the #44 BMW of Colin Garrett, and Schmied would fall back to P4 in the next corner. A few laps later while navigating traffic and trying to keep the pressure on Garrett, Schmied had contact in turn 3A with the #64 TCA Mini of Alain Lauziere, and while Schmied was able to continue running, Lauziere was forced to retire due to the incident. The stewards ultimately ruled Schmied responsible for causing the collision, and issued a stop and hold + 60 penalty for the AOA Racing driver. After serving his penalty in-race, Schmied would finish Race 2 in P12 overall and P6 in class. Schmied heads to the next two rounds at NOLA placed 6th in the TCX national championship.

In-Depth: Schmied was excited to head to Sonoma to kick off the 2023 Touring Car America season. With Schmied and AOA Racing having four days of pre-season testing under their belt, Schmied felt like he knew the BMW and the Pirelli tires well enough to tackle what the team expected would be the trickiest, toughest, and only 5-day event on the schedule. “I’ve never driven at Sonoma.” said Schmied. “And while I was supposed to come do a day of testing in a friend’s Porsche back in January, the heavy rains caused the event to get cancelled. So I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t have the chance, but I’m quite happy that the team and I were able to do two days of testing at NOLA in January and two more days at Road Atlanta in February. Sonoma looks tricky, so hopefully I can come up to speed quickly”.


On deck early Wednesday for the first unofficial test session, the team opted out of taking the car on the track due to rain and low ambient temperature. “The rain doesn’t bother us very much, but it was 37 degrees when we were getting ready for the first session. With it being my first time on this track and us being guaranteed to be unable to get temperature into the tires, we thought better of it and sat out the first test session” Schmied said. Only six cars participated in test session 1.

With the temperature rising, the team put on the wet tires for the second test session in the early afternoon. Feeling his way around the tricky circuit, and also learning how the Pirelli wet tires behaved, Schmied said it was a productive session. “Given the racing this weekend looks dry, this session might feel irrelevant. But I was able to get my eyes on the track, get some experience with the muscle memory and the sight lines, and was able to get some running on the Pirelli wets. They were super grippy, and while this afternoons test might not be 100% relevant to our dry races this weekend, it’s a really valuable experience overall”.

The weather turned around on Thursday, and other than a few lingering small puddles, the track was mostly dry and the sun helped raise the temperatures compared to Wednesday. Thursday would bring about the weeks first dry running at Sonoma, and Schmied was keen to put in the laps. “I’m just glad the sun is out today. Yesterday was cloudy, rainy, and cold. It’s a lot more comfortable out here today” Schmied said. The AOA Racing driver was able to complete most of the days running uninterrupted, but an electrical problem with the car would begin to rear it’s head towards the end of the day, causing Schmied to miss just a few laps at the end of test session 4. “I was having issues with the dash flashing on and off, thinking I was in a different gear than I was actually in, showing me the shift lights at 4,000 RPM… it was quite strange. And then I started to get some fuel cut-out as well. I’d be at wide open throttle and the car would barely be accelerating, like it thinks I’m only at 10% throttle or something”. The crew at AOA Racing dug into the issue after the session, identified a likely culprit, and initiated a fix. 

“Thursday was some great experience” Schmied said. “Finally being able to drive this wild track on the slicks was a great experience. It’s a really tricky track, with tons of elevation change and blind cresting corners, long and fast sweepers, and even a few super slow areas mixed in. Every time I was in the car I was improving the lap times substantially, and that’s all I can really do at a place like this… get out there and try to learn it and get fast. It’s unfortunate about that weird issue I had at the end of the day, but it was still a super productive day”.

Entering the first official practice sessions of the weekend, Friday continued to bring warmer weather, but a short rain shower directly before practice 1 would cause Schmied and the whole field to lose some relevant running. “We went out on slicks for practice 1, and it was a solid hard drizzle to light rain out there. It was tricky, and I tried to stay out for a few laps to get the temperature in my slicks, but after the second lap the team called me in to wait it out.” There were a few competitors that continued running on wets, but not until later in the session did other cars attempt to drive on the circuit with slicks. “I think everyone was playing the waiting game, and by the time the track looked like it could support some relevant running on slicks, there wasn’t really any time left in the session to get the heat in the tires. Sadly for practice 1 we only booked two laps. But it’s a risk / reward thing. Even if I could have gone out and done a few laps at the end of the session, I’m just not sure what we would have gained by that.” Schmied said. 

A few hours later it was time for practice 2, the final practice session before qualifying on Saturday morning. With plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures, and and a completely dry track, Schmied was itching to do a qualifying simulation, as the sticker slicks he had put on for the morning session had only done two laps on a very damp track. “I’m basically stickered up for this session, so I’m looking forward to really pushing and trying to find as much time as I can before we go into qualifying tomorrow.” Schmied said.


Unfortunately a few laps into the session, the electrical problem from the previous day showed back up and resulted in a similar fuel-cut problem. A quick stop in the box to reset the master switch on the car and attempt running again didn’t help, as on the out-lap the issue persisted yet again. Sitting on pit lane with the on-site BMW factory engineer plugged into the car attempting to isolate the issue, Schmied watched the clock countdown from inside the car and ultimately ended the session without any additional running.

“It was frustrating to have to sit on pit lane through that session” Schmied said. “It was by far the best track conditions we’ve had in three days, and was our last chance to really take this car to the limit before we go into the weekend. But not everything is going to go perfect, and you have to be prepared for that. I’ve got all my focus on tomorrow morning now, and I’m sure the guys will get the issue resolved”. It took several hours worth of the combined effort of Schmied’s engineer Andrew Pinkerton, the BMW factory engineer, and the MoTeC engineer to resolve the electrical issues, but the team was confident they were heading into Saturday having addressed the problem.

After spending Friday afternoon debriefing and studying with his driver coach Bryan Leonard, Schmied felt up to the task of qualifying the car on Saturday morning. “I know what I have to do out there, so now it’s just a matter of doing it” said Schmied. Laying down his best lap of the weekend by two seconds, Schmied qualified 6th with a 1:52.987, on a lap where he encountered traffic twice. “You know, I think given the lack of running we’ve had and the fact that I’ve never been here before… I’m not ever gonna be sad about picking up 2 seconds between sessions. It felt like that was a pretty good session, especially given the traffic. I was less than 2 seconds off pole, so it was a big gain and I’m sure I can pick up even more pace through the weekend”.

Just a few hours later and the cars were on the grid and ready for Race 1. After two formation laps, the field took the green flag and Schmied had a decent start from P6. After passing the #26 BMW of Joseph Catania into turn 1, Schmied attempted to go around the outside of the #21 BMW of Adam Gleason into turn 2. However, Gleason would get a better run off the corner and beat Schmied to turn 3, keeping Schmied down in 5th. That was all the in-class action Schmied would have for most of the race, as Schmied and the #24 BMW of Joseph Catania, hot on Schmied’s heels, would ultimately fall back from the pack by a few seconds a lap. Catania, keeping the pressure up for most of the race, made a late lunge into turn 11 on the second to last lap, and while Schmied tried to over/under for the run, he was ultimately unsuccessful. Having a look into turn 11 on the next and final lap, Schmied thought better of the move, and raced to the finish line just 0.186 seconds behind Catania, finishing P6 overall and in class on his debut. Schmied’s fastest lap time of Race 1 set him on the grid in P6 for Sunday’s race.

“Race 1 was really tough” Schmied said. “I got too inside my head about it once I started to fall back from the field. I knew I had more pace than that, so I couldn’t really understand what was happening. When we all sat down to look at the data after the race, I was just over-driving the car in certain areas and under-driving it in other areas. So I had to really hit the “Reset” button before Sunday, bring my mental game back into shape, and just focus on hitting all my marks lap after lap. I was pretty upset at myself for that performance on Saturday, so I told myself I had to do a lot better on Sunday”.


Gridding up for Race 2 on Sunday, Schmied would start from P5 rather than P6, as Daijiro Yoshihara, the Japanese pole sitter of the VGRT #99 Civic Type-R TCX, had experienced a gearbox failure during Saturday’s race, and his team were unable to source a spare in time for Race 2. Schmied would start on the inside line this time, and get a great run up the hill into turn 1, having completed a pass on the #21 BMW of Adam Gleason before turn 2, moving Schmied quickly up to P4. Later in lap 1, Schmied would make a move on the #44 BMW of Colin Garrett into turn 7, and after making it stick to the inside, Schmied was quickly in podium contention. Clicking off lap after lap, nearly half the race went by without much action. The gap between Schmied and Garrett ebbed and flowed, but the two began to catch the #26 BMW of Lucas Catania. With less than half the race to go, and Garrett hot on Schmied’s heels, a slight wiggle on the exit of turn 2 caused Schmied to lose some momentum, and Garrett pounced on the opportunity, quickly relegating Schmied to P4. Determined to retake the final podium position, Schmied pushed hard to stay on the rear bumper of the #44 so he could have an opportunity. Just a few laps later, the group began to hit lapped traffic.

Fighting hard to keep the pressure on last years runner-up for the TCX championship and get back into podium contention, Schmied had contact in turn 3A with the #64 TCA Mini of Alain Lauziere, and while Schmied was able to continue after a quick 360 spin, Lauziere was forced to retire due to the incident. After a few laps back on the charge, Schmied was catching the #21 BMW of Adam Gleason, who had passed Schmied when he spun and lost some time after the contact. Firmly on Adam’s bumper coming into turn 10, the team directed Schmied to the pit lane to serve a penalty. The stewards ultimately ruled Schmied responsible for causing the collision, and issued a penalty of stop and hold + 60, which meant Schmied had to come into the pit lane, stop in his pit box, wait 60 seconds, and then rejoin the race. Unsurprisingly this took Schmied and AOA Racing out of contention for Sunday’s race, and the #14 BMW ultimately crossed the finish line P12 overall and P6 in class. With respect to lap times, Schmied managed the fastest lap of all the BMW’s during Race 2.

“Sunday had a lot of ups and downs” Schmied said. “I can take a lot of positive things from the race, and I can learn a few lessons as well. While I think the penalty was unfortunate, I don’t think it was unwarranted. Ultimately I had contact with a lower-class car, and they couldn’t continue. It’s always my responsibility as the overtaking car to get the job done cleanly, and I simply didn’t do that. So if I could go back in time, I’d certainly approach that situation differently. On the other hand, I had really solid race pace, made moves when I could and defended when I had to, had the proper mindset and focus, and feel like I showed these guys and myself that I’m here to be competitive. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s really only a mistake when you don’t learn from it. We gained a ton of experience this weekend, and I just know we’ll be even stronger as we move on to circuits I’ve raced at before. It was a tough start to the season, but we’ve shaken the cobwebs off and I want to see what we can accomplish moving forward”.

Schmied and AOA Racing head to New Orleans Motorsports Park in late April for Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2023 Touring Car America season. Tickets for GT World Challenge America @ NOLA can be bought here.

Photos from TC America at Sonoma can be found below or at the photo gallery page here.